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Wooly Mammoth
by Cristina Corona
Geology 102

March 28, 2005
                                                                                      
           
Woolly Mammoth

The Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus Primigenius) lived from the Pleistocene to the early Holocene epoch.  These mammoths roamed Europe, North America and Northern Asia. There were various types of mammoth species ranging in size from about 9 feet tall to over 15 feet tall.  They weighed up to 3 to 5 tons and had similar teeth structure like the modern day elephant of today.  These herbivores (plant-eaters) mammals had long, dense, dark black hair and under fur, long curved tusks, a fatty hump, a long trunk, and large ears.  The woolly mammoths molted their dark black hair in the summer much like the musk oxen.  Underneath the dense dark black hair of the mammoth, lain a dark-grey skin and an insulating fat layer, which helped them adapt to the cold climate.  Their layer of fat was three-inches thick and they possessed an additional fat reserve stored in the hump above the shoulders.  Other characteristics of the mammoth, where their long curved tusks, which ranged in size and structure in different species.  The longest tusks were known to grow over 17 feet long.  Experts noticed that underneath the tusk of the mammoth it often showed wear.  This suggests that mammoths used the tusks for digging up vegetation and breaking thru the hard ice.  It also used its massive tusks for mating rituals.  Along with their massive tusks, came their massive teeth structure.  Enamel plates filled the mammoth’s cheek, which anchored in the jaw.  The enamel ridges stood out and were excellent grinding mills for the relatively tough, dry grasses on which these animals fed.  During their complete lifetime, six molar-like teeth developed in each side of each jaw.  Of the twenty-four teeth, six sets of teeth were never in use at the same time because there was not enough space in the mouth.  Teeth grew forward from the back jaw replacing smaller teeth that wore and eventually dropped out.  Mammoths fed on such grasses as mosses, sedges, herbaceous pollens and spores and fragments of willow and bilberry.

Text Box:  Permission By The Mammoth Site, Hot Springs, South Dakota.

            We have learned much from fossils regarding the evolution of the woolly mammoth. The evolution of the woolly mammoth has placed experts to figure out how many species came to evolve.  Until recently, it was thought that different species of mammoth had never walked the planet at the same time.  However, new discoveries of fossils suggest that different species of mammoth co-existed at two critical stages in their evolution.  Three species of mammoth are  also known to have been present in Europe and Siberia.  The most primitive mammoth was the ancestral or early mammoth, which lived in Europe between about 2.5 million and 700,000 years ago.  This was followed by the steppe mammoth, which lived until about 200,000 years ago, then the woolly mammoth, which finally died out about 3,500 years ago.  In 1993, experts came to the startling discovery that dwarf woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island, dating between 7,000 and 3,700 years ago.  While the pyramids and Stonehenge were being built in Egypt and England, dwarf mammoths roamed the relic mammoth steppe on this small island off the coast of northeastern Siberia.  With more discoveries of mammoth fossils come together the pieces of puzzles, allowing scientists to understand the evolution of when and how these extraordinary creatures once roamed the earth.

Text Box: Permission By The Mammoth Site, Hot Springs,  South Dakota.In 1993, experts came to the startling discovery that dwarf woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island, dating between 7,000 and 3,700 years ago.  While the pyramids and Stonehenge were being built in Egypt and England, dwarf mammoths roamed the relic mammoth steppe on this small island off the coast of northeastern Siberia.  From the research of fossils and frozen carcasses, we have learned much about the woolly mammoth.  There are a number of sites through out the world, which contain stacks of mammoth bones and experts tell the story of how they perished.  In Hot Springs, South Dakota, paleontologists are excavating a site where woolly mammoths came to drink water. The thirsty creatures would come to drink water and then find themselves trapped at the bottom of a watery grave.  Experts have found other fossils as well in the sunken pit, which clearly illustrates that other creatures fell to the same fate as the woolly mammoth. Today this site is a museum, where people are free to experience the incredible fossils of these mammals.

             From the frozen carcasses of woolly mammoths, experts hope that they can extract a pristine strand of DNA to impregnate a female elephant and then raise the offspring in a safari park in the Siberia.  A number of experts disagree that this it can be done; however, two expeditions in Siberia are in searching for mammoth remains.  Both teams hope to find and extract cells from the preserved remains of a mammoth.  One of the teams involves members of Japanese genetic scientists, which believe that by resurrecting a woolly mammoth they can learn more about these amazing mammals and even find out why they became extinct.

Text Box:  Permission by The Mammoth Site, Hot Springs, South Dakota.            The discovery of many frozen carcasses in Siberia has greatly increased due to global warming.  A rise in the earth’s temperature is causing the Siberian permafrost to melt. This is causing mammoth specimens to surface from the frozen tombs as a result.  Experts believe that there are at least 10,000 million mammoths buried in the Siberia.  Paleontologists study these mammals and try to understand why they suddenly became extinct.  Experts suspect that sudden changes in the environment led to their extinction.  Others propose that the mammoths adapted well to all types of environment and that it was man that caused their disappearance.  In addition to the frozen carcasses of woolly mammoths, a large amount of ivory has been found in Siberia and, a great variety of Paleolithic structures, tools, and carvings from mammoth bones and tusks.  Huts found like this one clearly illustrate that man played a roll in the extinction of these mammals.  More than 70 huts constructed of the tusks of woolly mammoths were found across the Russian planes.  Whether by man or by sudden changes in the environment, the mammoths could not compete with the cause of their destruction. 


Websites Researched for this paper:

 

http://www.mammothsite.com/

 

http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/mammals/

 

http://www.explorenorth.com/library/weekly/aa032400a.htm

 

http://www.nature.ca/notebooks/english/woolly.htm

 

http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibits/larson/mammuthus.html

 

http://www.zoomdinosaurs.com/subject/mammals/mammoth/

 

http://www.paleodirect.com/woolymammoth1.htm

 

http://www.beringia.com/02/02maina2.html

 

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/mammoths.html

 

http://www.crystalinks.com/woollymammoth.html

 

http://www.earth.ox.ac.uk/~laserlab/alison/mammoth.html

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/beasts/evidence/prog6/page2.shtml

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/11/1101_WoolyMammoth.html

 

http://www.amnh.org/science/biodiversity/extinction/Resources/Bestiary/Proboscidea.html

 

http://www.woollymammoth.org/

 

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/04/0408_050408_woollymammoth.html